Board accepts offer for “several million dollars” from local developer and restaurant owner; shareholders of Williamsville, N.Y. club will vote on bid in coming weeks.
The board of Westwood Country Club has agreed to sell the 66-year-old private Williamsville, N.Y. club to a group led by a local developer and restaurant owner, the Buffalo News has reported.
Westwood Board President Barry Singer said that on August 30, club Directors approved the offer, which includes the assumption of debt and employment contracts. Terms were not disclosed, but the price will amount to “several million dollars,” said John R. Yurtchuk, one of the buyers.
The approval came after several weeks of deliberations by the Board. The winning offer beat out two rival bids, one from Paul Snyder’s Snyder Corp. and one from a group calling itself Amherst Golf Partners.
The deal must now be put to the club’s 88 shareholders for a vote, expected to take place in the coming weeks. Closing of the deal should be completed by January 1, Yurtchuk said.
In the meantime, the agreement restores some stability, the News reported. Singer has said that the club will remain open and that all previously scheduled events will be held. The club’s management and golf pro will also stay on.
“There was a lot of reluctance to join or book events there. There was a cloud of uncertainty,” Yurtchuk said.
Still, the sale, rumored for days, appears to mark an end to Westwood in its current form as a mostly private club owned by a group of members. Founded in 1945, Westwood grew and prospered for decades, but has struggled in the past 12 years as membership steadily declined while expenses and deficits mounted, forcing the Board to reconsider the club’s future.
The club currently has 255 members, down from about 350 more than a decade ago. The 88 shareholders who must vote on the deal are longtime members who received shares based on their length of membership.
Under the new model, the club would have just three owners. Those owners said they intend to keep operating Westwood as it is now but will run it more efficiently, renovate or spruce it up, and significantly lower the cost of joining.
“Our intention is really to streamline the club’s operations and do some capital improvements and really try to have it continue,” said Yurtchuk, who is not a current club member. “We’re going to run it more like a business. It will still have the country club amenities, but will have more menu pricing with services. It doesn’t need a huge amount of swing to move it from red to black.”
Yurtchuk, president of Matrix Development Corp., had previously sought to buy a 4.6-acre parcel from the club that was to be developed into a 50,000-sq.-ft. medical office building. But the Town of Amherst balked at the necessary zoning changes, so the $1 million deal fell apart.
But despite that history and his professional experience in redevelopment, Yurtchuk said there are no plans to discontinue services or convert any portion of the property into anything other than the golf course and club. Instead, he said, he was brought in to help with the financing and property management.
Besides Yurtchuk, the other two principals of the group buying the club are Jon Cohen and Todd Sugarman, who are already co-owners of Windows on the Green, a restaurant open to the public inside the club that opened less than two years ago and is now generating profits.
Cohen also owns Jonny C’s NY Deli and Catering in East Amherst, N.Y. while Sugarman owns a commercial landscaping company, TLS Landscaping, and Maple Ridge Landscaping, a commercial brickwork firm, both in Amherst, N.Y. Sugarman will work with the club’s grounds staff, while Cohen will focus on the food and beverage operations.
“We just want to keep the club going,” Cohen said. “We were able to see what was going on. We know what needs to get done.”
The buyers will launch an aggressive membership drive to boost the rolls, ideally by about 100 people to a point where the club can break even. Plans call for lowering regular dues, while introducing swim-only memberships as another, less expensive option.
Currently, membership costs $5,940 annually, plus separate fees for carts, locker room use and other services. Except for the restaurant, all club services—including the tennis courts and Olympic-sized outdoor pool—are restricted to members.
But under the new plan, a full golf membership for a family would cost $3,700 and would include everything. And a separate swim-only family membership for the pool, hot tub and kiddie pool, would be $600.
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